Why hope? Hope is so hard to define, yet it’s what we cling to. So maybe it’s time to not only say it but believe, know it, count on it.
Today is my birthday – I hope I don’t look my age, I hope I’m wiser than I was ten years ago, I hope I continue to have good health. But these things are so surfacey. I obsess about age while I have friends who enjoy the milestones. Wiser is not something that just happens but is gained. And health, even in the best circumstances, can still fail. Hope has no effect on these things.
Hope placed in the right thing – or wrong thing – has an everlasting effect. “Then they will have the hope of eternal life God promised long ago. And God never tells a lie!” (Titus 1:2 CEV)
In today’s dictionary hope is defined as a ‘feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen’. Can’t get any fluffier than that. The ‘archaic’ definition – meaning what the word originally meant in our language is: trust that something will happen.
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT)
So if hope is all about trust, then our hope is no more certain than who or what we trust in. And yet, maybe like me, you find your trust is genuine but doubt is a close neighbor. Something like this: I absolutely trust God is real, that Jesus lived, died and rose again, that eternity with God awaits all who believe in Jesus. But…my doubts make me wonder about things that just aren’t in my control.
If that’s you, then we’re in for a journey together over the next few weeks – an adventure. Along the way it is my prayer that trust increases, hope looms large, and that elusive light at the end of the tunnel begins to envelope us. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Epheisans 3:20-21NIV)
Running toddlers are breath holding sights. Right on the heels of the one year old in my life, I can’t always save him from tripping over his own feet or some unforeseen obstacle.
Sometimes he gets right up and keeps on going, other times he needs a grammy arm up and lots of hugs and kisses. Same with you? It is with me. I trip over myself daily and life’s obstacles come rapid fire.
And then come those words – true and sure and timeless: “Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39 GNT) And He does the same for us – in the middle of the night, in the face of evil, in our own doubts – the whisper ‘Be still’ – and calm is ours.
Great calm – just imagine with me what that even is. Maybe a little different for each of us. Maybe not in the here and now. But there are glimpses of it. And there is a forever promise that our hearts will someday live it – always.
Calm comes when this little one cuddles with me and sighs contentment. It comes when something on my heart is confirmed over and over – through a song, the words of a friend, the answer I was seeking. “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” (Psalm 4:8 NLT)
So the question is: will we still believe even if, even when, whatever comes?
For in this life there will be much that will make us doubt. Our answer will depend on who we depend on. Self has to move over. The world has to lose its charm. Fear has to know its Master. Only one way: to know this God who enables our next breath, who smiles over us in delight, who longs to have us in forever.
“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty.“ (Psalm 93:4 NIV) (Get to know Him: Psalm 92:12-15, Psalm 139:17-18, Psalm 37:5-7, Psalm 27) Be still and believe.
Just came back from a ‘best friends’ trip. The Biltmore Estate was one destination. Do you know it has 250 rooms? Forget the square footage, it has 4 acres of floor space – 35 bathrooms.
As we wandered the spectacular grounds, and climbed up and down the many stairs, peering into various rooms the thought came to me: “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2a NIV)
For a second let go of the hold this life has on you and daydream about the place God has in store for His children. Nothing on earth compares.
When our someday comes where we say goodbye here – our hello there will take our breath away. It won’t be a work in progress, it’s all ready for us. “if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2b NIV)
A place just for me, just for you. The One who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, the One who loves us more than we love ourselves (think about that) – He has our homecoming all ready.
We’ll need a GPS for our trip – a God Positioning System. There’s a book with road maps: the Bible. There’s route guidance: the Holy Spirit. Best of all there’s Someone who will, in the end, take us there. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3 NIV)
So in the uncertainties of daily life – when we make wrong turns, when roadblocks come out of nowhere, when potholes jolt us – hold on. Remember Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life – real life. Not this temporary earth suit, not this pain and sorrow stricken world – but the forever abundant life.
It will take eternity to see all God has, because there will always be more. In our Father’s house there are many rooms, even more than the Biltmore.
If we have one cool thing in our house, it’s our shower. What we hadn’t noticed was the water pressure slowly getting lower. Until a sort of whining sound started.
How had we not noticed how slow the water had become? It was gradual.That’s how it is when we lose sight of hope. Gradually we begin to live as though everything depends on us, that this is all there is, and despair is the new normal.
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1Corinthians 15:19 NIV)
A good cleaning of the mixer valve parts and voila – no whining and lots of water pressure. Like what happens in our hearts when Jesus puts His Spirit there. A good cleaning – but not always ‘voila, no whining’.
God’s Spirit pours into us and out through us, but “We have to get to the point where we become so familiar with the presence of God’s Spirit that anything less feels foreign.” (Stormie Omartian) Hope fades most when we ignore or forget He is always with us.
“This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5 CSB)
Then there’s the faucet handle out back. It’s stiff, the slightest turn and water is bursting forth, no low/medium/high. I grumble to my husband about fixing it. But maybe there’s a good lesson there. God doesn’t want us to turn up our faith and hope in degrees as though we can turn on the Holy Spirit when we’re floundering, lower His presence a little when things are smoother, and turn Him off when we’ve got it under control.
At all times and in all ways “We must walk so closely with the Lord that we feel most comfortable in His presence and uncomfortable when we are not.” (Stormie Omartian)
Water – one thing we don’t live long without. Father, Son, Holy Spirit – One we don’t even have life without. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 HCSB)
Proud to be an American? If this is a bad thing, why does the whole world still clamor to visit or move here?
America isn’t just prosperity – although we have enjoyed that. America isn’t just freedom of religion – though we have enjoyed that. And America most certainly is not what movies and television portray.
America is a dream, a hope, an experiment. Before our Constitution was set in place, the world had never known a republic with democracy. The founders of this great nation weren’t positive it would work or last. But a dream was in the hearts of those who settled here. Hope was anchoring them to the belief that it was okay to want to live free of government intrusion. And so the experiment began – fourteen years after we declared independence – 1790 – our constitution became the law of the land.
There’s been amendments. It is regularly challenged. There are those who say it’s outdated. There are many who want to circumvent it.
But the truth is the experiment worked and a nation grew – prospered – respected each other’s rights to: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The glue that has held it together is a society founded on Christian beliefs. What are the ills of society today: broken families, confused sexuality, crime of all sorts, hatred of Christian faith. All the things the Bible teaches will drown us in sorrow are the things everyone today feels they have a right to. That we should all tolerate. And yet suicides increase, hatred increases, and our society is wobbling into being brought to an end of the experiment.
This is the only hope for America: “if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2Chronicles 7:14 NIV)
Father, thank you for this great nation called America. We have much that needs healing. We pray for hearts that are hard and bent on serving self to be softened. And we pray for hearts that claim You to be convicted to reach the hurting. In Jesus’ Name, God Bless America, Amen
I noticed the pool vacuum wasn’t moving, pulling it out I found out a little crab had been caught in the suction, blocking the way.
I actually have crab clog now and then. Times when my heart knows the right words and attitudes, but my brain wants to be grouchy. Blocking the way to what God wants me to see in the situation. When self blocks where the Spirit wants to lead, things get ugly.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10 NIV)
Devoted – does anyone know the definition anymore? Goes something like this: putting aside self for the good of another – regularly – not just when it fits our agenda. I’m thinking only with the Spirit of God working in us will we be able to be devoted more to others than self.
And that was what Jesus modeled. When His flesh was tired and weak but one more needed healing, teaching, heart mended – He didn’t turn away.
Can’t be like Jesus on our own. Max Lucado has a great idea though: “Before you face the world, face your Father.” It’s on the days I face the world first – or just my dirty house – that things seem overwhelming. Maybe it isn’t just first, maybe it’s a throughout the day thing. We get the house clean, but the car breaks down. Sometimes we work all day and accomplish much, but then we get home only to find the dishwasher leaked.
So I’m thinking facing the Father morning, noon, and night and everywhere in between might just be the key. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
Notice it doesn’t say, ‘then He’ll care for you’. Because He cares for you – the One who knows about the late payment, the runaway teen, the loneliness. He cares – and wants us to let Him pour peace into our hearts in the midst of the chaos.
Besides, we’re all a lot less crabby when we cast those cares away from us and take the next right step, knowing He will get us through.
Several years ago I decided to go super natural in food and beauty products. But…
I’m a bread lover – pretty much all the mass produced stuff is unhealthy – I had to find a way. I began with milling my own wheat. I bought a used mill from a friend – after much use it finally wore out. I ordered a new one but when I was ready to use it, an important part was missing.
Life is a lot like ‘brand new in the box with the factory seal on’. We open it but a part is missing. When my children were little they listened to the ‘Donut Man’ – songs about Jesus – he pointed out that without Jesus we’re like donuts: holes in the middle that we can’t seem to fill. “You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (Psalm 16:11 NIV)
So many who ‘have it all’ (money, power, fame) – leave behind a suicide note. All that striving, making it to the top, only to find nothing was there and it didn’t fill their deepest need after all. He calls to each one of us – longing to fill us with joy.
And religion and rituals and traditions leave so many just as empty. When belief is founded on man’s ideas and ways, the longing is still unmet. And the result is often strife, division, confusion. Jesus saw this firsthand – the very people He came to bring salvation to were the most wrapped up in religion. The Bible tells us it brought Him to tears.
Jesus won’t force Himself on us – but He is oh so good and quick the moment we turn to Him to meet us wherever we are, whatever we’ve done.
Because what Jesus really wants is to have a heart connection that runs soul deep. “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.” (Isaiah 30:18 NIV)
And when we have that connection, His compassion pours over us like a waterfall, grace covers us like a blanket, and mercy shows us the way to be filled with what lasts forever – no missing parts.
Ever help a turtle find his way back to water?
A little soft shell guy found himself in the middle of my hot concrete driveway. He wasn’t moving. Ever since a turtle got hold of my son’s finger one summer long ago, I’ve been a little afraid to just pick them up and move them. But he needed shade and water fast. So…I found some plastic gloves and a bucket. Rescued.
“Oh God you are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)
Jesus got right into our messes. No masks, gloves, buckets for the broken in body or spirit. And to this day He’s relocating us from our parched places – even when we aren’t seeking Him. So faithful is God that when we walk too far out into the dry places, He’s right there.
Not so sure? He’s promised. Never leave or forsake (Hebrews 13:5b) With you always, til the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b). “Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16 NIV)
Those are not idle words. Those are done deals. The thing is we’re in the middle of the hot driveway and we’re not sure if we’ll reach cool waters in time. But the God of the universe has this dry time and every dry time.
How do I know? I’m on the other side of some messes – I’ve seen the other side of loved one’s messes – and I’m learning to trust that even if the answers to my pleas aren’t my plan, His plan is best. Because even if the ‘worst’ comes about, He has eternity waiting. And ‘worst case scenarios’ are never the end for God’s children. He wants us to live in the assurance that this isn’t all there is – and when we’re at the end of ourselves, we’ll find Him. Right there all along.
All God’s promises are for you, don’t doubt a one. One step at a time, take His hand – run to His arms – just don’t forget: He isn’t even a breath away. He’s your ever constant help in times of trouble – and you will see all your answers. Now? Maybe. Someday? Absolutely.
Rain, rain, rain – for weeks. The canvas canopy over an outdoor swing was sagging – I pushed up and – whoosh – over the edge cascaded water.
It caught the attention of my one year old grandson, but I hadn’t noticed he had walked right up on the other side. You guessed it, as I pushed to get more water off, a soaked to the bone little guy stood staring back at me. I laughed hysterically, his reaction was a little different.
Turns out the laughter was refreshing to me and the ‘waterfall’ cooled him off that warm day. Kind of how it is with the things of God – time just reading His Word can refresh our soul, listening in our hearts for Him or singing His praises calms our anxiety, and praying has a way of opening our tight fists and letting God take care of things.
The funny thing about all that is: its not the act of doing those things, its Who we realize was there all along when we do. “Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel,” (Psalm 73:23-24a NIV)
God’s always right here, right now. Sometimes we have to be still long enough for Him to impress His truth upon our souls.
These summer rains make everything green. But summer in our hearts comes and goes. When we get soaked with Jesus, things like compassion, kindness, and grace sprout and grow from us. When we stay away, things like apathy, anxiety, impatience dry out our hearts. “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.” (Psalm 105:4 NASB)
Though stunned, my grandson threw his arms around his grammy’s neck, buried his little face, and came up smiling. That’s what our Father wants – no fancy prayers, deep studies, grand charitable gestures (all those are good) – but best to God is for us to run to His loving arms, bury our head in His care, and come up smiling. Soaked in His love.
A charge to my card that I don’t recognize, a call to report it to the fraud department – not so unusual these days.
A world turned upside down wanting only self-indulgence, gain at any cost, and no regard for others – what was once shocking has become mundane. Steal someone’s information to make a purchase, their identity to scam multiple entities – and without caring someone’s peace is stolen, life is disrupted.
But in Christ our identity is certain. No one can claim to be us and take our place in eternity. We are intimately known and we don’t need password protection, just a Holy Spirit deposit in our hearts. “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13b-14a NIV)
That’s what we want a whole lot more of these days and find a whole lot less of – guarantees. Not so long ago if a company ‘guaranteed’ their product or workmanship you bought with confidence. Now the ‘guarantee’ often has legal disclaimers or the company goes out of business.
We live in a world without…trust. Where man and woman marry vowing to have no other and find divorce an easy out. Where parents have little regard for the ‘best’ for their children if it’s inconvenient for them. Where prescriptions or surgeries are the miracle cure, only they don’t and you’ve signed away your rights.
While identity theft may be the latest crime, man’s selfish ways have long been around. Jesus came over 2,000 years ago and sighed throughout His life, knowing this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. And so without regard for self, to show what life can be like – should be like – He made a way.
“…Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28 NLT)
Looking for reliability, dependability, sure thing? Someone willing to die so that you can live forever – put your trust in that. Security alert: you’re safe in the reliable hands of Messiah.
Do-it-yourselfer? Got it handled? Not so much…
Accepting help isn’t always easy for me. Somehow it makes me feel ‘less than’. That I’m not smart enough, strong enough, good enough. And so it is with too many of us when it comes to seeking God – often only when we’ve exhausted self.
Amazing that our Creator – who is not messed up by our messes – can cherish such wayward hearts as mine, as yours. And how is it we go through our days as though we can handle things – asking for His help if we need it? If??? “…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.“ (Colossians 1:16b-17 NIV)
It’s taken years to break down pride, to attain the freedom that comes in asking for help. Caring friends have modeled for me love that says my weak areas don’t bring judgement. They allow the sweetness of another to partner in this walk called life. Their tender acts have reminded my heart to ask God for help – in the mundane and the heart pounding.
Self and our Savior’s enemies want us to look anywhere, but to the God who holds all our times. Psalm 139:10 reminds us that it doesn’t matter where we are or how much we’ve blown it, once we are His we are never away from Him: “even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV)
Turns out we can look back on all our D-I-Y days and know it never was us, always a tender Father making way for His cherished child.
And so the goal fades from self-sufficiency to God-dependency – for breath, for our next step (and the next). An old hymn says it so well: “Have Thine own way, Lord. Hold over my being absolute sway! Fill me with Thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me! Amen”
It is as He enables that we become capable – an ever present Help.
Truth? For everyone who ever has, is, or will walk this earth – nothing is static. Life changes – sometimes gradually, sometimes in an instant.
About two thousand years ago Jesus’ cousin John was born. His papa hadn’t been able to speak since learning he was going to be a father. At his birth when Elizabeth said we’re naming the baby John, all present said ‘That’s not a family name, Zechariah what should it be?’ Zechariah wrote: “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.” (Luke 1:63b-64 NLT)
About thirty or so years later a beggar, blind and at the mercy of anyone with pity called out to the Healer. “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” (Luke 18:39b&40-42 NLT)
I’m seeing a trend – and it’s not the miracles. And it’s not rubbing a genie lamp and instantly getting what we want. Each time praising God was the response.
Not every life changing moment is rosy – some are catastrophic. Our response has to do with our focus. Zechariah was surely frustrated but for nine months he looked ahead to what was coming. The blind man was shunned and had nothing but when the One he had heard about came his way he loudly kept calling even when shooshed by the crowd. His focus on the only One who could help.
Our problems, our ‘oh no-now whats’, our helplessness usually result in short-sightedness. As Renee Ratcliffe recently said “Sometimes I look around instead of looking ahead.” Miracles or tragedies and all the in between – we need to improve our vision by keeping it focused ahead. To what God has called us to, to our someday when we will see clearly.
“I ask that your minds may be opened to see His light, so that you will know what is the hope to which He has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings He promises His people,” (Ephesians 1:18-19a GNT) That’s what’s ahead, wonderful – blessings – promises kept. Praise Him in all things.
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